Driscoll Professorship holds Jewish-Christian dialogue

Alison Robles, Editor-in-Chief

The Brother John G. Driscoll Professorship in Jewish-Catholic Studies hosted a lecture, “Jews and the Pharisees: Reality vs. Their Portrayal in Christian Preaching,” on Sept. 23 in Burke Lounge.

The lecture is a part of the “Shared Roots, Divergent Paths” series, which focuses on the historical and scriptural connections between Catholicism and Judaism. Over 90 people attended the lecture.

Dr. Philip A. Cunningham and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were the featured speakers for the night. Cunningham is a professor of theology and director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Skorka is a university professor working with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s. Skorka is also the co-author of the book “On Heaven and Earth” with Pope Francis.

Dr. Elena Procario-Foley is the endowed professor of Jewish-Catholic Studies, as well as a professor in the Religious Studies department and is the director of the core curriculum.

The Pharisees were a community of Jews that grew to prominence during the time of Jesus, and are often referred to as being “self-righteous” or “hypocrites.” The label of “Pharisee,” however, is viewed as hurtful to Jewish communities, according to Elena.

Elena spoke about how many scholars are looking to determine how the teachings of the Pharisees at the time relate to Jesus’ teachings at the time as many groups were working to reform and interpret Judaism.

“The Pharisees were doing a lot of reforming and trying to get [Judaism] to…let people have access to texts and interpret the texts themselves,” Elena said. “But…[Pharisee] came down in history as a bad term, that…they were legalistic and only cared about the letter of the law. In fact, often they were trying…to let people develop their spirituality and to protect the spirit of what they understood to be Jewish instruction.”

During the lecture, Cunningham and Skorka provided a context for the Pharisees while looking at historical and contemporary texts, including works by Pope Francis, to break down negative associations with the Pharisees and connect the two faiths.

“Christians…often do not reflect on what it means for their Christian faith that there is a foundation in Judaism,” Elena said. “It is also important to understand how Rabbinic Judaism developed at the same time as early Christianity because they are not two separate pathways.”

For Elena, the most important aspect of these lectures is the opportunity for education outside of the classroom.

“[Judaism and Christianity] have had a contentious history,” Elena said. “Students and the local community can come and learn about that history, about that times when it got better and how that happened, and that the changing relationship…can be a model for other conflict…around the world.”

Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, director of the Office of Mission and Ministry, asked his students in his Introduction to Christian Scriptures class about the topic.

“It helps as a class get a handle on the topic of anti-Semitism, which has some of its roots in Scripture,” Carl said. “As people studying scripture and trying to develop a critical lens for exploring a deeper understanding of scripture, it’s important to look at what are some of the initial movements that anti-Semitism has really been rooted in…and has shaped our history.”

The Brother John G. Driscoll Professorship in Jewish-Catholic Studies is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. For Elena, this time has been incredibly impactful.

“It has been a privilege to work as the Driscoll professor for 20 years and I look forward to the next 20,” Elena said.

The Professorship in Jewish-Catholic will be hosting its annual Kristallnacht Commemoration on Nov. 21 with the lecture “Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields” in Burke Lounge. The event is free and open to the public.